Texas Spending $6.5 million on Prostitutes in Prisons

Monday, August 27th, 2012

By Eric E. Sterling (Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)), Guest Blogger

Texas is holding more than 350 prostitutes in state prisons at a cost of more than $6.5 million per year, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

Oh how stupid. In 2001, it seems, Texans were upset with prostitution at truck-stops and on Dallas streets. The legislature provided that after three misdemeanor convictions (or guilty pleas, most likely), acts of prostitution would be punished as felonies.

Consider the utterly unseemly entrapment of women by members of a vice squad. Think of the state of mind of the undercover police officer doing this work. Actually don’t think on this too long, it is disgusting.

Consider the attraction of the work:

“I thought life was a big party,” said [Beatryce] Hall, 42, a mother of two daughters. “I started out dancing, got on drugs, went to the streets where I could make $300-400 a night. I wanted to, but couldn’t get out of that cycle.”

Certainly there are many people who don’t find this idea at all attractive. But at $300 per night, working 5 nights a week for 50 weeks, this work would generate a gross income of $75,000 annually. That’s pretty good pay. I suspect that all of that was cash and that much of it was not reported on a Form 1040 to IRS. Sure the work is may be hard  in many ways, and may often be unpleasant and dangerous — lots of work is. Does the work interfere with other priorities? Yes, like so many other jobs. Was it hard to quit the unpleasant job that paid $75,000? Yes, just as it is hard to quit any good paying but unpleasant job.

Assume that many prostitutes don’t like the work. So what? I know lots of lawyers who don’t like the work, too — renting their mind for thousands of hours a year for clients they find disgusting. They are highly demoralized (in a couple of senses of the term).

Why do we judge this work to be illegal, other than on the basis of legal tradition?

How are these women benefited by being arrested or by going to prison? How are the families of prostitutes benefited by sending a family member to prison? How is society benefited by sending prostitutes to prison? How are their legitimate employment prospects improved by arresting them?

Prostitution in brothels should be legal as it is in parts of Nevada. Prostitution by escort service should be legal. If street walkers are disturbing your neighborhood, legal brothels in commercial districts and legal escorts would be an efficient way to solve the problem.

And perhaps the rest of us might not have our taxes wasted on the pointless costs of enforcement.

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18 Responses to “Texas Spending $6.5 million on Prostitutes in Prisons”

  1. #1 |  Steamed McQueen | 

    Who benefits? The prison industry of course. Police, courts and prisons are the only part of the economy that is -and has been- growing rapidly because it is pretty much the only thing we can’t outsource.

  2. #2 |  MH | 

    It’s all about “sending a message.”

  3. #3 |  DoubleU | 

    Of the 350 women in prison how many are the $300 a night call girls and how many are the $5 crack whores?
    I am willing to bet the $300 a night call girl is not walking around trashed on the street.

  4. #4 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Tragically large prison population, debt so large it can never be repaid, black hole of economies…

    …and Chris Matthews (and other notables) deliver this shit to us:

    Yes, the BIG issue with Romney is that he has an awkward sense of humor. Fucking dipshits.

    The revolution needs to throw out more than just the politicians. Shoogey-shame, media elites!

  5. #5 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    $300/night is actually pretty cheap. Treat yourself to $2000/session at least once!

  6. #6 |  liberranter | 

    Prostitutes, like users and dealers of (some) drugs, and people of certain racial/ethnic and sexual persuasions, are “poodles” (People “We” Don’t Like) and are therefore an easy target for the sociopathic politicians who pander to the bigoted majority as a way of feeding their own ego and power. Because Boobus Americanus doesn’t feel the direct cost of incarcerating these people (i.e., it doesn’t come straight out of his wallet), he doesn’t see the harm and futility in locking people up for non-violent crimes (i.e., no crime at all).

  7. #7 |  Bill Poser | 

    I’m wondering how that compares to the amount that Texas will spend on prostitutes at the Republican Convention…

    On a serious note, making prostitution legal also allows for regulation, e.g. protection against abusive pimps, regular medical inspections and care, screening of johns.

  8. #8 |  Onlooker | 

    When I saw the headline I thought that TX was spending millions on prostitutes for their inmates! LOL That would be a great way to alleviate all the sexual tension that builds up in there, eh? :-)

  9. #9 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    Thanks very much for this, Eric; it answers a question I’ve had about LEAP in the affirmative. Obviously, at least some of y’all are against ALL prohibitionist laws rather than just against drug prohibition. And that is awesome.

  10. #10 |  Mannie | 

    Make it legal.

    If OSHA doesn’t drive the girls out of the business, nothing will.

  11. #11 |  Danny | 

    I think the fear of prostitution is the fear of the power that a ‘transactional’ approach to sex would give women. Without legal prohibitions or stigmatization, sex-for-money would result in women getting control of the balance of wealth in pretty short order, especially if they collaborated with each other. It would be matriarchy in the end.

  12. #12 |  Mike | 

    It is absolutely vital that prostitution be outlawed.


    Because, um, well, uhh, hmm… I’ll get back to you on that.

    But it must be outlawed!

  13. #13 |  Ted S. | 


    I was thinking the same thing. Great minds think alike. :-)

  14. #14 |  Uno Hu | 

    To Mike: It must be outlawed. It’s happening right now, and somebody is having fun and somebody else is making money and the government isn’t getting a slice of either!! And besides, we have some empty prison cells that we really need to fill!

  15. #15 |  divadab | 

    Guys, here’s a pretty obvious factor that you are missing – it’s “respectable” women who want prostitution illegal. In western mill towns in the 1890’s to the 1910’s, with large populations of single men, prostitution was the order of the day. Blaine, WA, for example, had over 90 bordellos in 1904. Bellingham, WA’s police force was paid from a tax on bordellos, which were everywhere in town, and well-protected by the police force.

    However, once the good burghers’ wives (some of them ex-pro’s) started getting nice houses and clothes and a sense of bourgeois uppitiness, they started agitating for the abolition of the houses of ill repute (where their husbands might be spending time away from home). By the twenties, prostitution had been driven underground and the cozy relationship with the police ended.

    Prostitutes are competition. That’s my theory. What do y’all think?

  16. #16 |  divadab | 

    Prohibition of alcohol and prohibition of prostitution happened at the same time in the West. Both motivated, IMHO, by the women’s movement and women’s getting the vote in 1919. And at the time it was explicit – the pro-prohibition propaganda frequently lamented all the drunk working men wasting their money in bars with loose women, leaving their poor wives and children at home in poverty.

  17. #17 |  That Was the Week That Was (#35) « The Honest Courtesan | 

    […] that it describes Melissa Farley as “a recognized national expert on prostitution.”  This Agitator guest post on the subject by Eric Sterling of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is far more satisfying: […]

  18. #18 |  ed | 

    legalized prostitution started becoming a criminal act punishable by law around the 1920’s, ironically the 19th amendment proposed on may 19, 1919 and passed by congress June 4, 1919 giving women the right to vote just 1 year before criminalizing prostitution…. hmmm…. maybe divadab had a point..